JOHN Wick Fantastic Fest Review
Get ready to party like its 1995. Remember how it was after Pulp Fiction came out? When suddenly a gangster film couldn’t just be a gangster film? When suddenly everyone had to speak and behave in arch and kitschy code, ascribe to vague rules and play act like they were part of a big fantasy world all in pursuit of an illdefined notion of cool? John Wick does. Welcome to an action movie, made for people whose favorite gangster film is Suicide Kings.
John Wick is about a retired hitman who goes on a murder spree when his wife dies and shortly afterwards his dog is killed and his car is stolen. The young punk who committed those woefully ill advised actions happens to be the son of a Rooshian mobster and so John Wick is forced to kill many, many people.
Let’s get this out of the way first, the problem in John Wick isn’t the action, which is well choreographed and shot and edited so you can actually see it. This is a welcome development. The staging is imaginative, and I’d say at least two of the big action sequences legitimately pay off.
Nor is the problem with John Wick the actors. Keanu Reeves is always fun to watch and he proves once again that he won the genetic lottery. He’s backed up by welcome ringers like Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick and John Leguizamo. I’m sure they’re all playing to the exact tone that the directors asked for, the problem is that said tone is an ultra arch, semi ironic, artificial, cartoon voice that set my bullshit alarm off around the ten minute mark or so and it didn’t stop its klaxon shrieks until the end.
Look if you’re going to set your movie in an alternate universe and ground it in your own mythology, you better be sure that your can actually pull it off. Use it to a creative end, use it to any end, use it because there’s something you couldn’t do without it, use it because you’ve thought of something new. Don’t just use it because it’s hard to play things straight. Otherwise all you’re doing is wrapping your audience in emotional kevlar and practically inviting them not to care. There’s another action film here at Fantastic Fest (which I will be reviewing shortly) that if anything goes even further out of reality than John Wick, but because it’s done with a purpose, unpredictability and a genuine voice manages to pull it off.
Warmed over Tarantino leftovers were unappealing in 1995, twenty years in the fridge have not made them any more palatable.